Birthmarks vary widely in appearance. Often these pigments will change over time, becoming smaller and less noticeable. Whenever skin discolorations are present, it is important to monitor them to notice changes in size and appearance.
Birthmarks are not a result of anything a mother did or did not do during pregnancy. There is no known cause or prevention of this skin issue. They are often visible immediately at birth or shortly thereafter. Some people may have a higher likelihood to have them due to a genetic predisposition.
Whether caused by malformation of blood vessels or an overgrowth of pigment cells in the skin, these marks fall into different categories.
Vascular marks include hemangiomas, macular stains, and port-wine stains.
– Hemangiomas may be bright red, and this type of mark grows rapidly right after a child is born. Hemangiomas usually stop growing and begin shrinking during early childhood, often disappearing by the time a child is 9 years old.
– Macular stains are very common and light red in color, usually disappearing by the time a child is 2 years old.
– Port wine stains usually grow with a child and get darker, and they never disappear.
– Pigmented stains include Mongolian spots, café-au-lait spots, and moles.
– Café-au-lait spots appear virtually anywhere on the body, and they are the color of creamed coffee. Having one café-au-lait spot is not a concern. However, if someone has several and they are larger than 1/2 centimeter for a young child or 1 1/2 centimeters for an older child, a physician should evaluate them.
– Mongolian spots are a blue-gray color, and they usually appear on the lower back. These spots usually disappear by middle childhood.
– Most people have moles. However, it is unusual for a baby to be born with a mole. A large mole present at birth might be a precursor to skin cancer later in life, and should be evaluated by a physician.
Anytime a birthmark appears, it should be examined by a physician. The doctor can assess the spot and provide information and recommendations for future monitoring and treatment.